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HomeNews Reports'Not Untouchability': Kerala HC upholds tradition of Sabarimala, Malikappuram temples over appointment of Malayala...

‘Not Untouchability’: Kerala HC upholds tradition of Sabarimala, Malikappuram temples over appointment of Malayala Brahmin only as Melsanthi (chief priest)

Meanwhile, following the court’s verdict, elated J Sai Deepak tweeted, “The practice of the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple with respect to appointment to the position of Melsanthi will remain unaffected. Tradition of the Temple upheld on all counts. Writ Petitions dismissed. Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa.” 

On Tuesday (27th February), the Kerala High Court dismissed writ petitions challenging the tradition of the appointment of Melshanthi (Chief Priests) in Sabarimala temple. The court upheld the temple’s age-old tradition that only Malayala Brahmins can be appointed as ‘Melsantis'(Chief Priests) at Sabarimala and Malikappuram temples. The court rejected the argument that the condition amounts to “untouchability” or violates Article 17 of the Constitution.

Notably, a batch of petitions had challenged a notification issued by the Travancore Devaswom Board in May 2021 in which it invited applications only from Malayala Bhramins for appointment as Melshanthi(chief priest) of Sabarimala-Malikappuram temples.

Not untouchability, Article 25 not absolute: High Court

A division Bench comprising Justices Anil K Narendran and PG Ajithkumar passed the verdict upholding the traditions of the temple in the appointment of High priests. The court rejected the petitioner’s arguments that the conditions amounted to “untouchability” and violated Article 17 of the Constitution.

The court explained, “The right protected under Article 25(2)(b) of the Constitution is the right to enter a temple and worship. This right is not absolute and unlimited in character. No member of Hindu public could claim as part of the rights protected under Article 25(2)(b) that a temple must be kept open for worship at all hours of the day and night or that they could perform the services which the archakas alone could perform. Therefore, we find absolutely no merit in the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that the conditions stipulated in the notification issued by the Devaswom Commissioner that the applicant for appointment as Melshanthis at Sabarimala Devaswom and Malikappuram Devaswom shall be a Malayalee Brahmin would amount to untouchability abolished under Article 17 of the Constitution.”

The Court dismissed the writ petitions on the ground that they had no merit and lacked proper pleadings.

“There is a total lack of pleadings and grounds raised in the writ petitions. Though the counsel for the petitioners addressed arguments with respect to the provisions of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the challenge made in these writ petitions is regarding the selection of Melshanthis in Sabarimala and Malikapuram temples for the year 1193 ME and 1197 ME. In the absence of proper pleadings on Articles 25 and 26 we are of the view that there is no need to keep these writ petitions open for the larger bench of the Supreme Court to decide on the issue. However we make it clear that the contentions of both sides in this respect are kept open to be raised in an appropriate proceedings at an appropriate time,” the Court added.

It is not a secular activity: Advocate J Sai Deepak

Apart from claiming that the notification violated several Articles of the Constitution including 14,15,16,17 and 21, the petitioners said that the appointment to the post of Melshanthi has been held to be a secular act

They argued that the post of high priest can’t be confined to one particular community, especially in an institution administered by the Travancore Devaswom Board, which is fully controlled by the Government of Kerala.

Challenging the argument, Advocate J Sai Deepak had submitted that the petition was filed on a false premise that the appointment of an individual as Melsanthis was a secular activity.

it was argued that Sabarimala temple is a tantric temple with diverse traditions and peculiar practices while referring to Article 26 of the Indian Constitution. It was thus stated that insisting on the selection of Malayala Brahmins alone amongst other Brahmins to the position of Melsanthis is not a caste-based reservation, but a religious requirement.

Meanwhile, following the court’s verdict, elated J Sai Deepak tweeted, “The practice of the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple with respect to appointment to the position of Melsanthi will remain unaffected. Tradition of the Temple upheld on all counts. Writ Petitions dismissed. Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa.” 

In another tweet, Sai Deepak also shared a link to the written submissions by the People for Dharma in this case. He added, “Here is the link to the counter affidavit and written submissions filed on behalf of People for Dharma, since this was being selectively circulated by Dravidianists and their closet Left and non-Left sympathisers over the last few weeks.” 

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